Nokia will roll out its latest Lumia smartphones that will feature wireless charging, Windows Phone 8 and new colors. And for Nokia this rollout will be even more critical than last year's Lumia debut, which had mixed results, but the smartphone maker may have more help from Microsoft this time around.
Leaks about the new Lumia devices have been picking up leading up to Wednesday's launch. There have been so many leaks that Nokia's Windows Phone 8 devices are largely detailed already.
One thing that hasn't been detailed is that Nokia will have a lot of marketing help from Microsoft this time around. Last year, Nokia began its Windows Phone comeback story with Microsoft marketing, but there was no big bang for the Lumia. AT&T, Microsoft and Nokia were behind the Lumia 1.0 launch, but the stakes are different this time around.
Microsoft has its Windows 8 launch and will market the hell out of it. Windows 8 combines the interface across three screens---PC, tablet and smartphone. There's one code base and multiple screens. A Windows Phone failure this time around reflects on Microsoft's operating system strategy across the board.
Last year, Microsoft only had the now-familiar Windows tiles on phones. Simply put, the story---and Microsoft's commitment to marketing Windows Phone---was incomplete.
Nokia's Lumia launch in 2011 kept the company in the game just barely. Nokia's results have declined steadily---largely because the company is getting crushed in emerging markets---and it's a bit much to ask Windows Phone to save the day completely.
Some analysts are noting that Nokia stands a better chance this time around with the Lumia launch. Swedbank analyst Håkan Wranne explained in a research note:
The first Lumia launch in Q4 last year failed to gain decent momentum. There were several reasons for the lukewarm reception including: a marketing approach that was too broad and too shallow; a new and somewhat immature product, lacking clear differentiators; and no marketing back-up from Microsoft. The main difference this time around is that Microsoft will do a full scale launch of Windows 8 simultaneously, providing much needed marketing support.
In short, Microsoft will initiate massive Windows 8 marketing in the second half and to a large extent this will support Nokia’s efforts to push WP8-based Lumia volumes. This significantly increases the likelihood of a successful Lumia launch. The drawback is that it will be the Windows phone ecosystem that will gain momentum and not Nokia or Lumia, but at this stage, getting the ecosystem going is the paramount objective.
Here's the catch for Nokia. The next iPhone will launch shortly. Samsung will ramp up volume. And Android isn't sitting still. Meanwhile, Samsung, Huawei and HTC will also get into the Windows Phone 8 game. In other words, Microsoft's big Windows 8 push may not completely translate into Nokia Lumia sales. Nokia doesn't have the exclusive on Windows Phone 8.
But Microsoft's marketing might may be good enough. This Lumia launch could be make or break for Nokia, but the more realistic outcome is that Microsoft's marketing support will give the smartphone vendor another year of survival.
In fact, the most likely outcome for Nokia is another year of survival---more of the same. Jefferies analyst Lee Simpson noted:
With the release of WP8 devices, Nokia is keen to impress on us that the pace of transition is about to accelerate. But Android traction in China, a new iPhone set to launch and low-cost smartphone rivals (HTC, Samsung, ZTE, etc.) alongside a marked slowdown in Symbian sales are the issues into 2013. We believe the move to WP8 handsets will see relatively weak smartphone sales again in 1H13 unless we have concurrent, high volume, global rollout of devices across multiple operators. Nokia remains amidst a major transition complete with sweeping headcount cuts, a likely exit from Finland and a non-exclusive collaboration with Microsoft.